May 09, 2002

Los Angeles — Nineteen semi-finalist teams were narrowed to five finalists in the 21st annual Knapp Venture Competition, named for Bud and Betsy Knapp whose $2 million gift to the school supports the annual event and other entrepreneurial initiatives. The final round will be held on the evening of Thursday, May 16, 2002 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at UCLA Anderson

The finalists, who are competing for $15,000 in cash prizes are XCOM Wireless, Shoom, Inc., Women in Business, AgaMatrix and LarkSeeds, covering a wide range of industries that include biotechnology, publishing, telecommunications and computer software.

During the first round of competition, which took place on April 25, nineteen Anderson MBA teams pitched their business plans to a judging panel that included venture capitalists, lawyers, industry professionals and members of the Anderson faculty.

"The exercise of presenting and being 'grilled' by the panel is a valuable learning experience for young, prospective entrepreneurs," said Mark Grinblatt, faculty advisor to the Knapp Venture Competition and Anderson finance professor.

"The judges certainly didn't give us any breaks," said Michelle Nguyen, a member of the Women in Business team and an Anderson student. "They were very real life in their role playing, as if they were actually going to put dollars into our ventures. The judges also gave us valuable feedback on market positioning and equity investments as well as introductions to key contacts."

Following are the synopses of the five finalists:

  • Women in Business
    Representing the publishing industry, the Women in Business team is comprised of four Anderson MBA students who created a 100-page monthly magazine catering to female business professionals. The magazine will focus on high quality artwork and intelligent editorial content to attract readers and advertisers.

  • AgaMatrix
    AgaMatrix is a software DSP solution that enhances chemical and biological detection in biosensory equipment. AgaMatrix targets diagnostic medial device manufacturers and hospital point-of-care blood analysis device makers.

  • XCOM Wireless
    Develops and sells radio frequency MEMS technology to improve signal routing at a considerably lower cost than current offerings. XCOM plans to initially target the defense and aerospace markets and then roll out service to the commercial telecommunications industry.

  • Shoom, Inc.
    Develops infrastructure software to manage back-end operations within the advertising and publishing industries. Shoom's software and infrastructure services digitally streamline the print ad fulfillment process.

  • LarkSeeds
    Profitable seed trading company looking to integrate vertically downward into high-margin seed development and production. Lark will leverage its R&D agreement with Texas A&M University to develop and market new seed varieties.

"A key initiative of the Knapp Venture Competition is to stimulate interdisciplinary synergies," said Cherry Lu, program manager, Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. "We are seeing more Anderson MBAs team up with graduate students from other departments, which is very encouraging."

This year, current MBAs partnered with fellow UCLA students, Anderson alumni, and a wide range students from graduate schools across the country. Many Anderson MBAs begin forming their ideas through the school's popular business plan writing courses and field study program.

First year Anderson students and Knapp finalists Carrie Friedman and Mark Jaffe wrote their plan for Shoom Inc., a company which has been operating for over a year, and worked closely with the company's CEO, Bill Freschi, an Anderson alum.

"It has been extremely educational to be able to dig deeply into a young, growing company," Jaffe said. "Dealing with the daily issues of an entrepreneurial business firsthand provides greater insights than just reading about a company through a case study."

The Knapp Venture Competition is presented by Anderson's highly ranked Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the School's student-run Entrepreneur Association.

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